Synopses & Reviews
Our most remarkable writers share what has influenced them the most: each other.
Many of the illustrious contributors to The New York Review of Books have had deep and abiding relationships-both personal and intellectual-with other poets, writers, artists, composers, and scientists of equal stature. The Company They Kept is a collection of twenty-seven accounts of these varied friendships-most of them undeniably fraught with “idiosyncratic complexities.”
One of the sweetest and funniest is Prudence Crowthers memoir of her romance, at age thirty, with the seventy-four-year old S. J. Perelman (“As a friend of mine put it, ‘Yeah, too bad you couldnt have met when you were twenty six and he was seventy-or when he was thirty, and your parents hadnt met yet.”). Darryl Pinckney recalls his unsettling stint as Djuna Barness handyman. Susan Sontags piece on Paul Goodman is more about how they never hit it off; Seamus Heaneys remembrance of Tom Flanagan has all the melancholy affection of a bereft and beloved son. Larry McMurtry and Ken Kesey were grad students together-for years afterward, McMurtry recalls, the Merry Pranksters would show up unannounced, and throw his family and neighbors into hilarious chaos. Derek Walcott recalls his parting of the ways with Robert Lowell, and of their bittersweet reconciliation. And Robert Oppenheimer writes that he wants to dispel the clouds of myth surrounding Albert Einstein: “As always, the myth has its charms; but the truth is far more beautiful.”
From Anna Akhmatovas dreamlike description of wandering through Paris with the impoverished Modigliani to Joseph Brodskys account of his first meeting with Isaiah Berlin (from which he returned to report, around the kitchen table, to Stephen Spender and W.H. Auden), these pieces are tantalizing glimpses into the lives of those who have made The New York Review of Books into what Esquire magazine calls "the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language."
"Silvers and Epstein, editors of The New York Review of Books, pull together 27 essays in this smart and eclectic collection. Published over the past four decades in the NYRB, pieces here deal with professional relationships and personal friendships among such writers as Robert Lowell and Jerome London, Susan Sontag and Paul Goodman, and Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein. Saul Bellow writes of the immediate connection he made with John Cheever, whom he 'met at irregular intervals all over the US.' Derek Walcott shares his take on the work of fellow poet Robert Lowell, who 'made the body of literature his body, all styles his style, every varying voice his own.' And Larry McMurtry recalls his experiences with Ken Kesey, the original Merry Prankster, whom he first met at Stanford University in September 1960 and kept up with through the '70s, '80s and '90s. But readers unfamiliar with certain names in this anthology might find it all less than fascinating. Essays by relatively obscure writers such as Anna Akhmatova (on Amedeo Modigliani) and Michael Ignatieff (on Bruce Chatwin), for example, prove difficult to finish. A thoroughly academic audience, however, will no doubt appreciate the comprehensive line-up here." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
ROBERT SILVERS and BARBARA EPSTEIN are co-editors of The New York Review of Books.